After a two year delay, the first Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship is operating in the Eastern Atlantic and on its way to the Middle East, USNI News has learned.
USS Sioux City (LCS-11) was operating in 6th fleet as of this week, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Thursday.
“Sioux City’s deployment allows us to integrate the LCS’ unique operational capability into our already diverse fleet,” said Vice Adm. Gene Black, commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet in a statement. “The agility of Littoral Combat Ships allows them to operate in both near-shore and open-ocean environments, enhancing our ability to provide security and stability across the European theater.”
The ship departed from Naval Station Mayport, Fla., last month bound for operations in U.S. European Command and eventually the Middle East, a defense official confirmed to USNI News on Friday.
The Navy has largely regulated the Freedom-class LCS to operations in U.S. Southern Command after discovering a class-wide engineering flaw within the gearing linkage between the gas turbine and diesel engines in the main propulsion system.
The combining gear failure led the service to halt, in 2020, its plans to push the Freedoms out from Mayport to a forward deployed location in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf.
A U.S. 5th spokesman did not confirm Sioux City was headed to the Middle East when contacted by USNI News on Friday.
Sioux City is now in a surface warfare configuration with twin 30mm Bushmaster cannons in addition to its 57mm main gun. Based on a photo taken May 3, Sioux City does not appear to be armed with Naval Strike Missiles.
On the West Coast, the Independence-class LCS have operated steadily in the Western Pacific equipped with the Naval Strike Missile in a modified version of the surface warfare mission package.
The Mayport-base Freedoms were tasked with being the primary platform for the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare mission, which included a towed variable depth array sonar that was promised to be key to the fight against Russian submarines in the Atlantic. However, developmental delays caused the Navy to abandon the mission package and transferred the future capability to the under-construction Constellation-class (FFG-62) frigates that will be based on the West Coast.
As part of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, the service announced it had intended to decommission the bulk of the Freedom-class – including Sioux City – and leave the remaining six under construction for operations in North and South American, USNI News previously reported.